The mining industry is always on the lookout for new innovations as it strives to keep up with other industries. In that light, periodically I like to highlight new technologies that I become aware of. I’m trying to help spread the word about them, which in turn may assist them in their on-going growth and development.
In this article I want to briefly describe two hardware / software companies that are working on technologies related to mine equipment productivity. In no particular order, the two companies are Loadscan and SedimentIQ. SedimentIQ is more of a startup than Loadscan which has a longer operating track record.
These technology companies are both targeting the open pit and underground markets, looking to provide simpler and less costly productivity solutions. Their technologies may be well suited for small to mid tier mines that cannot afford or don’t require the comprehensive Minestar type fleet management systems.
For the record, I get no fee or commission for promoting these companies; I just like what they are doing.
Loadscan has been around for a few years, but I only became aware of it recently. It is a technology that allows the rapid assessment of the load being carried in truck. It does not rely on the use of load cells or weigh scales to measure the payload.
Instead Loadscan uses a laser scanner and proprietary software to three dimensionally map the surface of the truck payload and then calculate its volume. The results will indicate how consistent and optimal truck loading is volumetrically. One can then calculate the payload tonnage by applying a bulk density.
The Loadscan technology will assess whether trucks are being over or under loaded, whether the loads are off-centre, or whether there is excess carryback on the return trip.
Successive truck payloads can be tracked manually or with RFID tags. A cloud based database and web based dashboard are used to store the data and summarize it. The output can include an image of each individual load.
What is interesting about this technology is that it is simple to install in an operation. It does not require retrofitting of a truck.
Results are immediate. Loadscan provided an example where a message readout board can let the shovel operator immediately know how well each truck was loaded, resulting in improved education and better performance efficiency.
One can also assess how much better shovel bucket factors are in well blasted rock versus in blocky rock.
The Loadscan system is already in use in several mines globally. The vendors can provide more technical data if you need it.
Their website is https://www.loadscan.com/
SedimentIQ is a new smartphone vehicle tracking platform that is trying to establish itself. Their proposed technology makes use of a phone’s built-in GPS, Bluetooth, and accelerometer to track vehicle operation. The phone’s sensor can measure vibrations produced by an operating truck or loader.
Vibration is a fingerprint of a vehicle’s activity. Therefore using machine learning, the SedimentIQ app can produce an “activity score” that decides whether a machine is parked, idling, or performing productive work. The phone is not connected to the machine diagnostics system, so its very easy to install, only needing a power source.
The system will be able to be used on any vehicle, including trucks, drills, loaders, graders, dozers, etc. The system has the capability to monitor equipment location and speed.
In an open pit environment it uses the phone’s GPS to monitor vehicle location. In an underground setting the phone reads inexpensive Bluetooth beacons mounted along the side walls to track location.
The app will identify delay and downtime based on equipment vibration levels. The system currently requires no interaction with the operator, working in the background. Hence it will not identify the cause of delay (i.e. blasting delay, breakdown, inter-equipment delay, etc). I would expect that in the future they could add a feature for the operator to tag delay types on the touch screen.
The SedimentIQ software will aggregate the cycle time and delay information and upload it in real time to a cloud based database. A web-based dashboard allows anyone with access to view the real time production data graphically or export it to Excel.
The SedimentIQ platform is less expensive than high end fleet management software. Although it may not provide all the bells and whistles of the high end software, it may deliver just what you need to monitor productivity in your mining operation. It relies on relatively inexpensive smart phones that are locked to the application.
I recall as a mining student doing time studies. I rode the shift crew bus with pencil in hand, timing the travel from the mine dry to the various shovels to measure start up times. I recall sitting with a stopwatch timing shovel buckets and truck loading times. Both of these tasks can be done for every shift, every truck by equipping the crew bus and mine trucks with the SedimentIQ tech.
The platform is currently being tested at a couple of trials mines and the founders are looking for more mines willing to adopt and further refine their technology. Lets hope they can make a successful go of it.
The website is https://sedimentiq.com/.
Both of these innovative technologies can provide useful information to open pit and underground mine operations. They are in the growth stage, looking for wider adoption. Input from users, whether positive or negative, will assist them with on-going development and enhancements. Their websites obviously have more on what their technology offers, including presentations, white papers, and case studies.
It would be nice to meld these two technologies in some way to allow the SedimentIQ cycle times to also track payloads.
Check them out. Try them out.